Disciplined Goals versus BHAGs

BHAGS are what Jim Collins calls Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Since Phil stirred up some sleeping menehunes in my brain talking about goals a few weeks ago, and since I wrote this post, I came to this aha moment: I have realized that what I need, is a BHAG.

“In Built to Last, we defined BHAGs as a key way to stimulate progress while preserving the core. A BHAG (pronounced bee-hag, short for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”) is a huge and daunting goal—like a big mountain to climb. It is clean, compelling, and people ‘get it’ right away. A BHAG serves as a unifying focal point of effort, galvanizing people and creating team spirit as people strive toward a finish line. Like the 1960s NASA moon mission, a BHAG captures the imagination and grabs people in the gut.”

—Jim Collins in Good to Great

Collins speaks in the context of a business, with a BHAG as an organizational mission-driver. When you are self-employed like me, a BHAG for your company becomes whole-life changing. But it’s not just change for the sake of change, it’s ho‘ohana-intentional, and it can be ‘imi ola, form-creating for an even better next-stage of your life.

I’ve got goals — a ton of them. I’m a classic over-achiever in a number of different ways, and at any given moment I can easily rattle off a good dozen or so things I’m working on. About half of them will equate to short-term goals. The rest of the “ton” relate to this combination-hierarchy now in my personal productivity system between Stephen Covey’s roles-and-responsibilities coaching, and David Allen’s Runway-to-50,000+feet Life spectrum. There’s a lot of stuff in there, a lot of really good goals.

But none of them is a BHAG. Not Big enough, Not Hairy-Scary enough. Not Audacious Enough.

And now that I’ve realized that, it’s driving me crazy.

Publishing Managing With Aloha by creating my own publishing company, Ho‘ohana Publishing, was a BHAG. The writing of the book itself was great, worthwhile, meaningful, fulfilling. MWA became mission-critical life-reinventing work for me. Where the BHAG came in, and what you may not know, is that I left a great job and emptied out both my kids’ college funds to do it.

I decided to thumb my nose at the traditional publishing model and at print-on-demand, taking a chance on self-financing a first-print hard-cover run of 6,000 copies and selling them all on consignment. I knew nothing about getting a book published, but the zealous businesswoman in me simply would not accept the flaws in those other two existing models at the time, and learning-while-working the self-publishing model my own way was way too intriguing to me.

About halfway through the process, someone in my family was faced with a civil suit and bankruptcy proceedings, and as families do for each other, we emptied out our savings accounts to help. But at that point for MWA there was no turning back. That’s when the BHAG got really hairy.

“BHAGs are bold, falling in the gray area where reason and prudence might say ‘This is unreasonable,’ but the drive for progress says, ‘We believe we can do it nonetheless.’ Again, these aren’t just ‘goals’; these are Big Hairy Audacious Goals.”

—Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last

Today, not one single regret. My kids are both in college, and we are paying as we go, semester by semester. When you decide on a BHAG, and you commit to it and believe in it with all your heart and soul, it happens. Better stuff happened than you initially had dreamed of, as big as that BHAG may have once seemed. For example, this Ho‘ohana Community I love so dearly was a result of my MWA BHAG.

I need another BHAG. Having a BHAG is part of living the value of Mahalo: Being thankful for all the elements which make life so precious by using all of your talents in the best possible way, and digging deep to do so.

I have some thoughts, but they’re still warm-ups, and they are not yet worthy of BHAG status. This is too important to be impulsive, but I’m giving myself a deadline so there’s no dragging on it either.

“Bad BHAGs, it turns out, are set with bravado; good BHAGs are set with understanding. Indeed, when you combine quiet understanding of the three circles* with the audacity of a BHAG, you get a powerful, almost magical mix.”

—Jim Collins in Good to Great

*Collins is referring to the three circles of his Hedgehog Concept, and stating that BHAGs fall right in the middle of where the three circles overlap:

1) What you are deeply passionate about, which includes your core values and purpose,

2) What you can be the best in the world at, and

3) What drives your economic engine.

I have more values-alignment in mind in considering my next BHAG, the stuff of Collins’ first circle. The third one may be completely irrelevant for me— I’ll be sure I don’t cripple my present economic engine with my BHAG, and sure, more financial freedom is always a big plus. However, I also look at BHAGs this way:   Big Ho‘ohana Authentic Goals — individual and way personal.

I am thinking ‘Imi ola (just what is the best possible form for my life?) and KÅ«lia i ka nu‘u (strive for the highest summit). I also want to learn something new, and venture into uncharted territory again like I did with learnining how traditional publishing worked (and why I didn’t want to go that route.) I’m working hard these days, but I realize I miss the energy, excitement, and striving of a Big Ho‘ohana Authentic Goal.

So BHAG, here I come. Stay tuned.

——————-the Related Posts I referred to:

-Phil’s first post was:   Unleash the Power of We to Achieve Your Goals at blog Synergy

-Then I wrote: Goals, Renegotiated Agreements, and Ho‘omau.

-I have written about BHAGs as Big Ho‘ohana Authentic Goals before: KÅ«lia i ka nu‘u is about BHAGs

-The world conspires. . . cool. This does relate to our Ho‘ohana this month: ‘Imi ola; Form and Function. Working on the form we adopt, for the function we want in our best possible life.


  1. says

    Rosa, I understand the need for a BHAG. Sometimes you don’t have to go looking for them, sometimes they just appear and being ready to recognize the opportunity you’ll see the open window/door for what it is (a BHAG) and take it.
    Good luck!